Mental health: Lessons learned & post-lockdown anxiety

Esmée Chengapen, pictured, urged employers to be kind, acitvely listen to their employees' different needs and recognise that everyone is unique Romain Gamba

Esmée Chengapen, pictured, urged employers to be kind, acitvely listen to their employees' different needs and recognise that everyone is unique Romain Gamba

If some people felt anxious during lockdown, for others it is only getting worse now that measures are easing and employees return to their places of work. Two professionals explain and share tips on learning from lockdown and overcoming post-lockdown anxiety.

Lockdown was a boon and a burden for different people. Many of the isolated 25-40-year-olds living alone “really struggled during lockdown,” therapist Sharon Mills told Delano. But, for the most part, she said her clients benefited.

“People even called it lockdown holiday, even though they were working 10 hours per day. They weren’t under the stress of work and commuting,” she said.

Certified transactional analyst Esmée Chengapen reported similar stories. “Many [people] have benefited being at home as it has allowed them to feel more grounded in their safe spaces, often with their pets, and avoid being overstimulated by light (i.e. fluorescent lighting) and noise in open plan offices,” she told Delano.

As their clients gradually return to their places work with new safety regimes, the two says they have observed a growing anxiety. Mills, who said that during the lockdown there was an unusual quiet period lasting several weeks when no new clients contacted her, was greeted with a host of new clients when discussions began about easing lockdown.

“Most people understood the message to go home, that’s where it’s safe. Now people are being told go back to work because you need to go back to normal. Not go back to work because it’s safe,” she said.

In some instances, the lockdown brought a profound shift in their outlook. Mills said the experience helped some reflect on their lives pre-lockdown and see how close they were to burning out. “A lot of people are looking for a new job or looking to go back to work to explain and try to get their employers to allow them to work sometimes from home,” she said.  

But, asking for special dispensations is not easy, said Chengapen. “Whenever I suggest to a client to ask their boss if they can work from home, they would say it’s a no-no. It’s considered as being lazy,” she explained.

Parliament will soon debate a petition in favour of making remote working a legal right in Luxembourg. But, legislative procedures take time and until that happens, the two mental health professionals urged employers and employees to make mental health discussions a priority.

Managing anxiety

“Being kind is something simple. Active listening, also recognising the diversity of the stories, recognising that people are unique,” Chengapen said. For clients experiencing anxiety about the easing of lockdown, she urged them to take up spiritual practices such as music or meditation, bilateral movement activities like dance, yoga, walking or cycling, spending time in nature and on creative activities.

For people who recognise their work life pre-lockdown was not sustainable, Mills urges them to “stay clear with the self and what was working and not working”.

To handle anxiety, her advice was to focus on what’s within our control and not on what we cannot control. For instance, wearing masks, and washing hands, are all actions within our control. “Keeping a good balance, seeing friends and sport and staying healthy,” are also critical, she said.

As for dialogue with employers for extending remote working possibilities, Mills suggested people should present the evidence that they work better from home. “Make it positive,” she urged.